Too much PowerPoint in your non-profit boardroom?

sleepy board membersA few weeks ago I was sitting down with a client putting the final touches on their Board Retreat agenda, and I received what I thought was an odd request from the board president. He emphatically asked me to please spare him and the board from using PowerPoint presentations during the course of the retreat. He explained that in his line of work he sees far too many PowerPoint presentations, and his eyes glaze over whenever someone starts clicking through their slides and droning on about something obviously important.

Well, I thought it was an odd request, but the customer is always right. Right?

However, out of curiosity I went to Google to see if there are other people who feel the same way. Here is what I found:

Well, alrighty then!

I never realized how many people are tired of PowerPoint presentations (especially bad ones).  So, I was left wondering what I should do because I am apparently one of those consultants who over uses PowerPoint.

Luckily, the board president saved the day and told me about a presentation service he found online — This online service as a software (SaaS) is a dynamic virtual whiteboard that brings a 3-D quality to your presentation. Click here for a better explanation. You can also watch this YouTube video to see a demonstration.

I’ve now used Prezi a few different times, and I can honestly say that I like it (and I’m not getting paid to say any of this).

Just yesterday I transformed one of my PowerPoint presentations on the “12 Steps to Making a Face-to-Face Solicitation” into a Prezi. After the training, I had a few different volunteer solicitors thank me for using a different format. You can check-out that presentation by clicking here or the graphic below.

Prezi sample

Let me end this post with a dose of skepticism.

I personally don’t believe that people are tired of PowerPoint presentations and I don’t think Prezi is the solution to all of our problems.

In fact, I suspect that what non-profit volunteers are actually trying to tell us is:

Enough of the presentations! Can we have a discussion?

Perhaps, we’re talking too much at our board volunteers, and we need to figure out how to incorporate more discussions into our board meetings and board retreats.

Have you been struggling with this question recently? If so, please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box about the following questions:

  • Who should facilitate these engaging discussions in the boardroom, especially when no one on the board is a highly skilled facilitator?
  • Are there trainings available that a board president can easily access to improve his/her facilitation skills?
  • What role should staff play in framing and staging these conversations before, during and after the board meeting?
  • When information is vital to framing an important discussion, what is the best way to present it to board members without lulling them to sleep?

Please don’t misread me. I’m not suggesting that you throw all of your PowerPoint slides away. I’m not suggesting that Prezi is manna from heaven. I’m not telling you to only have robust discussions in the boardroom or board retreat. However, I am suggesting there is a delicate balance and we need to figure out if we want our non-profit boards to get better at governance.

We can all learn from each other. Please weigh-in with your thoughts using the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on March 7, 2013, in Board development, leadership, nonprofit, organizational development, technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. THANK YOU! A couple years ago, we purposefully chose not to use Power Points in our board meetings for the very complaints you listed in this article. However, recently I’ve been rethinking that, thinking perhaps our board needs more visuals to connect with the info and then better engage in discussions. I think we were wrong in thinking the Power Points were killing the discussion and rather that we had all simply been victims of the sleep-inducing presentations that have Power Point a bad name. It’s time to rethink how we engage!

    • Dana . . . what a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing! I love your call to action. As you figure it out, please circle back and share with us what is working in your boardroom.

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